From the May-June 2023 issue of News & Letters
by Eugene Walker
In a stunning reversal on May 7, voters elected a majority of far-right candidates to be responsible for drafting a new constitution for Chile. Unfortunately, this was to be expected after the September 2022 rejection of the first draft. That first draft, written by a progressive coalition of elected representatives from below, had insisted on gender equality and Indigenous rights. It was rejected after an extensive negative campaign of misinformation and right-wing media manipulation.
The far Right will now control the writing of a new constitution with José Antonio Kast’s Republican Party receiving the most representatives. It will be joined by the ultra-conservative Chile Seguro (Safe Chile) coalition. Kast, who lost the November 2021 presidential election to Gabriel Boric, the “Left candidate,” has been a follower of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet. The Left has only a few seats in the convention and will not be able to prevent the Right’s shaping of a draft constitution, which will then be voted on this December. Any rejection will mean that the Pinochet-era Constitution will remain in effect. Some choice.
How far Chile has retreated from the powerful, spontaneous protests of October 2019! That social uprising by youth, Indigenous, and other disenfranchised sectors of Chilean society was a call to fully reject Chile’s political institutions—a call for a New Beginning. But the social pact agreed to the next month by Chile’s political actors preserved those institutions. Yes, it led to Boric’s election, but it has also resulted in one backward step after another, and now, Pinochet-ists in the driver’s seat writing a “new” constitution.